RGS-IBG 2013 Sessions on Ecological Citizenships in the Global South

I am organizing a double session on Ecological Citizenship in the global south in the forthcoming RGS-IBG 2013 Annual International Conference in London. This stems from my recent interest in advancing theoretical and empirical work on the ways in which ecological citizenship is developing as a new conceptual device through which the material and metabolistic relationships between citizens and their environments are being debated, contested and reconfigured in the global south. In India, this is coming to the forefront through new struggles for political-ecological rights that are radically transforming notions of citizenship in contemporary Indian society. The recent focus of the Indian state on cities as engines of development and growth, has spurred rapid urban development through an ‘elite capture’ (Kundu 2011) of land in a number of small and medium towns. These emerging urban areas are largely characterised by the absence of local democratic institutions, poor urban infrastructure and continued loss of agricultural/forest land to development projects (Sharma 2012). A broad range of grassroots struggles in these places are working to redefine rights and justice around notions of ecological citizenship, which challenges earlier ecological and eco-feminist scholarship on women and marginal groups as victims of development (Gadgil and Guha 1995, Shiva 1998).

My intervention in this debate has been in some recent scholarly exchanges examining high-speed transport networks and mega-urbanisation in the global south. The first one was a visiting researcher position in Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey in 2005 and the second one more recently in 2010, as an ESRC-ICSSR visiting scholar in Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. The RGS-IBG double session below is intended to bring together like-minded scholars working with the concept of ecological citizenship in similar empirical contexts.

Ecological Citizenships in the Global South:Re-imagining rights, justice and democracy in an era of neoliberal urbanization

(Wednesday 28 August 2013)

In recent years, new struggles for political-ecological rights across cities in the global south are radically transforming notions of citizenship in these societies. The recent coming of an ‘urban age’ and the focus of many countries in the global south on cities as engines of development and growth, has spurred a range of grassroots struggles in these places that are working to redefine rights and justice through a notion of ‘ecological citizenship’ (Dobson 2003, Valencia-Saiz 2005). These events challenge decades of ecological and eco-feminist scholarship that sought to portray women and marginalised groups as victims of neoliberal development. Moving beyond earlier state-citizen binaries, this session aims to use ecological citizenship as a conceptual device to understand the new ways that rights, justice and democracy within grassroots struggles are being reimagined through human-nature interactions.  It examines new conceptualisations of citizenship beyond deliberative democracy in the public sphere to simultaneously consider the political agencies of actors within private spheres. Aiming to develop the largely unexplored notion of ecological citizenship in the global south, this session is particularly interested in papers that seek to develop gendered and subjective perspectives of citizen-ecology relations through which rights, justice and democracy are being debated, contested and reconfigured during rapid urbanisation in much of the global south.

Topics in this theme could include but are not limited to:

  • Instrumental dimensions of ecological citizenship in contesting neoliberal urban development
  • Relationships between citizenship struggles for environmental rights in the urban realm and political agency in private realms
  • Critical and active citizenship in shaping sustainable urban development
  • Building capacity and freedom of choice in participatory urban development
  • Social learning and transformative change through practices of ecological citizenship
  • Citizenship rights to environmental justice and sustainable urban development
  • Citizenship rights to deliberative urban planning
  • Citizenship rights to procedural justice and rule of law in challenging urban development


(Session 1: 9-10.40)

  1. Private and public spheres of citizenship: A justice perspective of water governance in eThekwini Municipality, South Africa [Catherine Sutherland (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa); Bonang Lewis (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands); Dianne Scott (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)]
  2. Engaging Ecological Citizenship: Water access, rights, and citizenship possibilities in comparative perspective (Accra, Ghana and Cape Town, South Africa) [Leila Harris (Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability, University of British Columbia); L. Rodina; M. Peloso]
  3. Redefining Rights: Grassroots Advocacy and Access to Water in Dar es Salaam [Nicola Pritchard (University of Glasgow )]
  4. In search of environmental justice in Malaysia : The cases of waste in Broga and Bukit Merah [Li Kheng Poh (Brighton University)]
  5. “For a clean Egypt”: Waste from a social indicator to a citizenship vehicle [Lise Debout (Institute of Lyon, France)]

(Session 2: 11.10-12.50)

  1. Exclusion and Belonging: New Fictions of Nature, Land, and Property in India’s Urban Edges [Shubhra Gururani (York University, Toronto, Canada)]
  2. Locating Urbanization in Ecological Citizenship: Deliberative democracy and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in Maharashtra, India [Ayona Datta (University of Leeds)]
  3. Forests for Participatory Democracy in San Fransisco Libre, Nicaragua [Lauren Sinreich (Victoria University of Wellington); Julie Cupples (University of Edinburgh)]
  4. “Sin Maiz No Hay Pais”; Environmental Citizenship and Food Sovereignty in Mexico [Analiese Richard (University of the Pacific)]
  5. Discussant [Paul Routledge (University of Leeds)]


  1. Do you know where someone could access copies of the presentations or papers presented on at this conference? The topics look very interesting – I would love to know more about them.

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